Five Important Items You Need To Know About College

The college you pick is one of the most important decisions of your career but it needs to be last not first. This is backward from the way that most students decide. Most pick the college first.  Here is how you can make this decision work for you.
     Buzz TodaySource:  COLLEGENavigator      The list and actual tuition cost for every accredited American college and university is available online in a searchable data base.  Data elements include: Tuition, Fees, and Estimated Student Expenses,  Financial Aid, Net Price, Graduation and Retention Rates. All are available in great detail.  The site is maintained by the US Department of Education.

Important Item #1     Colleges compete to enroll students.   Harvard University has the luxury of rejecting about 95% of the applicants.  But the good news is that you were not going to be able to go to Harvard even if you were accepted.  There are literally thousands of other universities.  From that long list you can find a college that fits who you are but you need to do your homework before you get into serious discussions with any of them. Being assertive can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the cost of your degree.  My advice is to do your homework before you engage them in an enrollment conversation.

Important Item #2      Professors are very smart, well educated subject matter experts but they know little about what career is best for you.  The most important education decision you have to make is not about classes and majors.  The most important decision is to make sure that you select a career that fits you.  Some people go through their entire life trying to figure out what they need to do to be satisfied in their professional life.  It is far better to face this important choice before you get your degree, not after.

Important Item #3      Online education is at least as good, if not better than traditional higher education.  A Department of Education research project “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning” states: “A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning….The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”  The Implication for you is that you do not have to give up a quality degree to attend an online college.

Important Item #4    Credits do not automatically transfer even when earned from an accredited university.  The college that you plan to attend determines what  parts of your past education apply to their degree.  This is one reason why selecting the right college is so important.

Important Item #5    Some employers recruit for young graduating students exclusively only at the most prestigious universities.  But this characteristic of hiring applies most to on campus visit by company recruiters looking at recent graduates with no work experience. In this case, the prestige of the college is a way to deal with the fact that the graduates have little or no work experience.

The right experience trumps the credentials of the college.  Once you have been out in the work force for a period of time, the college you attended (attend) is much less important than it is for traditional college undergraduate with no work experience.  Look at a sample of job postings.  Software bots are making the initial screening of resumes and job applicants.  The bots function by matching key words in your resume with key words in the job description.  I have never seen the name of a college listed in the key words of a job posting.   Once you have work experience, where you went to college is much less important than what you studied and your work experiences.

Don’t get me wrong.  What college you decide to attend is an important decision but it needs to be made last, not as the traditional first as I explain in Your Future is Calling.   Start your search by deciding on what you want to study to position yourself for the career that fits who you are.

Selecting A College or University Part III

Price and Quality

Quality of education is one of the most confusing things about American higher education.  There are no good quality measures routinely reported. The most common education quality parameters actually work against the modern learner, especially adult learners.
Buzz TodaySource:   Your Future is Calling   For example, it is clear from comparisons that the cost for a four-year graphic design major varies tremendously. At the low end of our example we have an annual cost of $6,914 per year at Columbia College versus $42,360 at Boston University.

To understand this dilemma, we need merely look at the premiere University in America today – Harvard University.  Beside being the original American university with the largest financial endowment, Harvard is cited as the university giving the highest quality of education.  Unfortunately, actual Harvard quality parameters  cannot even be used by returning adult learners to make a choice.

When we boil it down, the two cited quality parameters most critical to our perception or quality are price and selectivity.  Why?  Because as an adult living in Kansas City, Missouri we do not have the time or resources to travel to Boston and take several days to visit the campus, talk to faculty and sit in one of the dozens of libraries this esteemed institution has on its campus.

Given this reality, it is important to examine what price and selectivity mean to the college selection decision.  When it comes to price, we have a general set of beliefs that apply to nearly all purchase decisions.  Unless we have direct experience with the product or service our general belief is that high price must mean high quality, otherwise why would people continue to pay for it?  In general, this is not a bad assumption, especially for an institution that has been around for hundreds of years as Harvard University has been.

It is the inverse of the high price/high quality assumption that really hurts the average Joe or Jane when selecting a college.  The inverse assumption is that low price (tuition) means low quality.  Now before you come out of your shoes about low cost higher education stop and hear me out.  There are very good higher education options that are available for one half to one third the tuition cost of Harvard.  To consider them you have to know which colleges those are.

The point of this conversation about price and quality in American higher education is that these commonly cited quality indicators simply do not help the majority of adult learners returning for their education.  In the end, these learners need far better information than price to make a quality decision.   See Your Future is Calling for specifics.